Police arrested nine members of the Bratslav Hasidic sect on Friday and a court in the Israeli town of Petah Tikvah has extended the detention of eight of them by two days, Haaretz reported on Saturday.

Police intend to charge the Jews while they are in custody, it said. The authorities in Petah Tikva could not be immediately reached for comment.

The Jewish pilgrims had to be rescued by Israeli forces after their vehicle was attacked shortly before dawn on Friday near the site of Joseph’s Tomb in city of Nablus.

Seven Jews were wounded in the attack, responsibility for which was later claimed by Islamic Jihad and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. The pilgrims' van was later set ablaze by Palestinians from the nearby Balata refugee camp.

Warnings

The Israeli military said on Friday the Bratslav Hasidic Jews had been warned many times not to visit the site, significant to both Muslims and Jews, for security reasons.

The Jewish pilgrims' vehicle burns
 near a mosque in Nablus

But members of the sect often ignore military orders to worship at such sites.

The Israeli police commander in the occupied West Bank, Sharar Ayalon, told Israel Radio on Friday two of those attacked in Nablus had been arrested recently for illegally entering Palestinian-administered areas.

"The last thing the [army] needs is a group like this that enters without permission... that compels [the army] to change its order of operations and rescue them," Haaretz quoted Ayalon as saying.

Joseph's Tomb

The area around Joseph’s Tomb, a nineteenth century Ottoman structure, was reoccupied by Israeli troops in September 2000 after the outbreak of the al-Aqsa Intifada, which saw most of the rest of the West Bank return to Israeli military rule.

Significant to many Jews, Christians and Muslims, the site is said to hold the remains of the Biblical patriarch Joseph (the Prophet Yusuf to Muslims), although this is disputed by secular historians.

The city of Nablus remained tense on Saturday. A female Palestinian student was shot dead by Israeli occupation troops after the taxi she was in reportedly broke through a military checkpoint in the West Bank city.